Potted Potter Theatre Review – This Playful “Potter” is Priceless Fun in Orange County

Harry (Jeff Turner, l) listens to Dumbledore (Dan Clarkson)

(Costa Mesa, CA) January, 2015 – Who would have thought that an unemployed British single mother living on state benefits would create a multimillion dollar franchise on a series of napkins while waiting on a delayed train in 1990? But that is what happened to best-selling author J.K. Rowling, whose rags-to-riches story has inspired many writers to delve into their craft with more passionate fervor. She has also expanded the literary horizons of young adult fiction, as well as provided the foundation of a successful film franchise from her Harry Potter fantasy series, equaling that to Peter Jackson’s adaptations of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.


But it has also provided lots of fodder for satire, most notably Potted Potter, a 75-minute parody on Rowling’s seven volumes penned and performed by two-time Olivier Award-nominated actors Daniel Clarkson and Jefferson Turner. Whether you are a Harry Potter aficionado or a newbie, Potted Potter brings laughs and much joy to Irvine Barclay Theatre audiences.

Harry (Jeff Turner, l) meets Herminone (Dan Clarkson)

Sitting on a man-sized wooden toy train, co-writer and performer Jefferson “Jeff” Turner is reading one of the massive volumes of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series…probably Book 7: The Deathly Hallows. The train is a part of Set Designer Simon Scullion’s expertly minimalist stage, which includes a hat rack, bookcase, podium and three main props (which can’t be revealed in this review without spoiling the fun of the show) that serve as tools for a salute to this literary franchise. When Daniel “Dan” Clarkson---the other half of the comedy duo---comes out, he greets the audience and explains how he and his partner will achieve the Herculean task of presenting all seven books of the Harry Potter series in 75 minutes. A daunting task, indeed…especially when Clarkson goes off tangent during the show, such as chiming out ballads from the Pixar movie Frozen, or rallying the audience---multiple times---in playing the popular Potter game of quidditch as though he were a maniacal Cockney rugby player on a drunken bender, or how various puppets seem to take control of Clarkson, causing more frustration for the hapless Turner. And the audience sits in anticipation: Can these two pull it off?

Dan (left) plays with Jeff (right) using a killer serpant

Needless to say, the two do pull it off, with hilarious results. Courtesy of Richard Hurst’s deftly tight direction, both Clarkson and Turner flawlessly bring the magic and joy of Rowling’s works effortlessly as though they were two theatrical Jackson Pollocks splattering out all Potter references and jokes with an incredible sense of humorous eloquence. Turner, the straight man of the duo, plays Harry throughout most of the performance…except during Book 6, The Half-blood Prince, where Clarkson tricks Turner into becoming Dumbledore. With the stature and stockiness of David “Squiggy” Lander and the storytelling mastery of Charles Dickens, Turner is a pleasure to watch as he captures and maintains the audience’s attention even when he steps on the stage to silently read one of the Potter books 10 minutes before the show begins. And his humorous touches, especially when he dresses up as a golden snitch and is tackled by two young members of the audience as part of the quidditch game, is a sight to behold.

Harry (Jeff Turner) combats Lord Voldemort (Dan Clarkson)

If Turner is the “yin” of the duo, Clarkson is, without a doubt, the chaotic yang who portrays all of the other Potter characters. Looking frighteningly close like a British twin of comedian Ryan Styles, Clarkson provides the added adrenaline shot which rockets this show into multilayers of slapstick hilarity. Although both artists are improvisational masters, Clarkson made his counterpart break character a few times, intensifying the humor even more. Best of all, his presence is a draw to the younger members of the audience, especially those---about 30 of them---who were dressed in Harry Potter garb. His manic energy is a devilish one for the adults and a benign one for the children…a nice combination. And with these two wonderfully-crafted performances, it is no surprise that Potted Potter has been running successfully since 2006, proving without a shadow of doubt that its January run at the Irvine Barclay Theatre will be a magical one.


Peter A. Balaskas is a journalist, fiction writer, editor, and voice over artist.


Potted Potter opened 1/20 and ends 1/24

Irvine Barclay Theatre

4242 Campus Drive, Irvine, CA 92612

(949) 854-4607

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